The ESPYs continued their powerful political theme when Zenobia Dobson took to the mic.
The ESPN award show gave the annual Arthur Ashe Award to her late son Zaevion, a 15-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee high school football player who stepped in front of three girls and protected them from gunfire in December. She was flanked by Zaevion’s two brothers, Zackelyn and Markastin, and owned the attention of an audience filled with All-Stars and Hall of Famers alike.
“I’m here to fight back. We as a country need to take a stand to consider the effects of gun violence on families throughout America,” she said. “I’m here to urge all of you to join the movement tonight, to save innocent lives. We need to rewrite live to make it harder for the people to get guns.”
Reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry introduced the story on Zaevion with a speech of his own. “Wherever you’re from, whatever you think, whatever your politics are: What you can’t forget is that every one of those people who dies has a story,” Curry said. “[Zaevion] had nothing to do with the bullet that took his life. He and his friends didn’t know the people who killed him or anything about the feud that led to their gunfire. But in a split second, because of his incredible courage, he became part of one of the saddest statistics in America.”
Wednesday’s ESPYs began with fellow stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul advocating for peace after the recent shootings in America. They all made a plea to their fellow athletes to step up on what they can do in their own communities. Zenobia Dobson made a similar overture.
“All the athletes in this room, you have a lot of power. People look up to you — I know Zaevion did,” she said. “I urge you to think tonight about why he did, and what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent young man or woman from being lost as well.”
See her speech below.